[THEATRE ~ AUSTRALIAN PREMIERE ~ SA]
The Bakehouse Theatre, Wed 1 Dec, 2021.
Courtesy of some well-deserved grants and funded residencies Stephen House set himself the exciting and daunting task of writing a performance monologue for each of three different cities. He has completed and performed the works on life in Dublin and Paris, and now unveils the final part of the trilogy – The Ajoona Guest House. Set in a dingier part of Delhi, the tale has House sharing memories of a long association with the guesthouse – “a dump with oodles of charm” – and India.
The Ajoona Guest House is something of a refuge for those Westerners who were smitten and subsequently trapped in a strange world of mysticism, drugs, and ultimately desperation. House introduces us to some of the desperados who will never check out, and shares the unlikely joy he finds in the company of a neighbourhood child beggar.
Often bleak, even harrowing, the tale is a sad one but it’s the kind of sadness that accompanies an understanding of what life is truly like. Life may be full of broken souls but even they have created moments of great joy and beauty. The trick is to realise that the wheel turns, that joy and pleasure are just as ephemeral as pain and suffering, that nothing is forever, and you can only hope that if you ever reach this point of understanding you are still sufficiently whole to appreciate the past and present with gratitude, and have enough strength left to pull yourself away from the darkness.
It has been said before but Stephen House is a wonderful story teller. The Ajoona Guest House is perfectly paced. His economy with words, obviously well-honed by the poet side of his creative self, is very easy to listen to, and gradually draws you into an intriguing tale that soon has you experiencing something else below the narrative; that sensation of being there, in the story, and wondering what you would do? How would you feel?
Beautifully presented on an almost bare stage with few props, The Ajoona Guest House is simple and profound, entertaining and instructive. Bravo Stephen House.
The Ajoona Guest House continues at The Bakehouse Theatre – Studio Theatre from 8pm until Sat 11 Dec.
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